Sunday 16 November 2008
the south definitely kicks the north's ass when it comes to scenery. the weather has improved a lot which has definitely helped. we arrived at franz josef town and it was grey and miserable. the town sits at the foot of the franz josef glacier but all we could see in the distance were a few hills. we checked into a caravan site and potted about in there for most of the day. we decided to head out that night for a few drinks... we turned round the corner of the campsite and there on front of us was the franz josef glacier towering over the town. it was amazing... everyone was out on the streets in awe with the glacier and taking photos.
from then onwards the weather has been brilliant. clear blue skies, few clouds and sunshine. yesterday we drove through arthurs pass national park, making our way to christchurch. imagine driving through glencoe, with the mountains at either side, it was kind of like that but much better... and then every now and then, huge snow capped mountains would appear behind the smaller mountains. it was so cool, so much so that i was determined to get some photos... whilst driving !
views driving through arthur pass np
our highlight so far has to be the glacier. we had 2 nights at the town chilling out and on our 3rd day we arrived at the tour office ready for our heli hike at 9:30. a heli-hike is a 5 minute helicopter ride, landing on the glacier and having 2 hours to hike around it. we got told that due to weather conditions the 9:30 hike was cancelled and to come back later to see if the weather improves. disappointed, we drove to the fox glaier to catch a glimpse of it and also lake matheson where we saw mt cook, the highest mountain of new zealand at 3754 metres. unknown to us the lake was a 20 minute walk from the car park so we were rushing about because we had to be back at the tour office for 11:15. we arrived back at the office, the weather had improved, so the heli-hike was going ahead
lake matheson with mt cook behind it
the next 3 hours were just perfect. the helicopter ride gave us some great views of the glacier and the rainforest that surrounds it. what makes this glacier special is there are only 3 glaciers in the world that are surrounded by rainforests... and franz josef is one of them. the others are the fox glacier and 1 in argentina.
views on the glacier
we got kitted out with boots, crampons, ice axe and a jacket and were hiking for about 2 hours with our guide. below us were 150 metres of ice, sometimes up to 400 metres. we got to crawl through some ice tunnels and climb around pools and dodgy paths. one wrong step and you could be jammed inbetween thick slabs of ice or falling into a pool of ice water. of course i had to experience one of them. paul was behind me and the guide was out of sight. i took a wrong step and was up to my waist in freezing cold water. it was quite scary... i didn't even touch the ground so who knows how long the drop could have been. luckily there was hard ice around me to stop me going any further and paul made a mad dash to pull me out. we were pissing ourselves laughing but it made us realise just how dangerouse this can be. the last hour i hiked around with cold soaken wet feet.
me and paul in an ice tunnel
after the glacier we headed back up north as paul had booked a knifemaking course for the following day. we were back on the same road that i was complaining about in my last entry. but this time the weather was brilliant therefore we got to see the alps this time. it was stunning. the mountains over here are bigger and capped with lots of snow... but what makes them so dramatic is how jagged they are. my pictures don't even give them justice.
me and paul on the glacier
the following day paul was on his knifemaking course and i was chilling out in the van at the beach reading a book and sorting out my photos. it was just a day course paul was on, 9:30 till 4:00 and he absolutely loved it. read his blog for more info about it but he basically made a knife from scratch using tools that the guy had in his garden. i met them all after the course and was given a free glass of his home made "champagne"... cheap wine put in his soda stream for bubbles lol.
we were then on the road again heading for christchurch. we saw a sign at a hotel saying "free camping" so we drove into this dodgy site where this hotel/pub sat. the views around the place were lovely with huge hills in the distance but the hotel itself looked run down and ugly. a guy came out telling us where to park and feel free to come in for food and drinks. the guy was scottish. for the rest of the night we sat in the pub talking to this guy, a nice enough chap... but the more alcohol consumed the more we found out about him.
when asked why he moved to new zealand he answered with "a better life for my children"... after spending hours with this guy, i reckon he had no option but to leave. he made a point of telling us he was once a millionaire but lost it all. he's either bull shitting or a very stupid guy. we didn't take much cash with us so we ran out quick. he started serving us free drinks for most of the night which was kind of him. i think he was just wanting the company though. come midnight i was so tired, so i left paul and him to it in the bar. paul tried to leave with me but the guy was having none of it. as soon as i left he took his top off to show paul all his war wounds... so you can imagine the kind of stories paul had to endure.
it was a bizarre night. but hey, free camping and free drinks. can't complain.
on our second day of the south island we hired a boat for half the day and went fishing at malborough sounds, near picton. the weather was beautiful but after an hour we were frantically rushing to get to the harbour as a storm came in. we got absolutely soaked. we took shelter in a cafe for a while and it cleared up as soon as we were in the place. we headed back out and not long after putting our rods in the water, huge black clouds were coming towards us. enough was enough so we headed back to the shore and gave the guy his boat back. no fishes caught. it was bucketing down and it was the start of miserable weather for us for a few days.
view from the boat on malborough sounds
other days were occupied with walking along the longest suspension bridge of new zealand, stopping off at pancake rocks, stopping off at lotsa lookouts to check out some great views... and one day paul spotted a seal on the beach so we managed to creep up next to it and take some snaps before it ran into the water.
one of the lookouts we stopped at
pancake rocks is a series of rocks sticking out of the ocean near the shore. they get their name beacause of the shape of the rocks; looking like a stack of pancakes piled on top of each other. nearby are blowout holes where water from the ocean shoots up and sprays all over the rocks. it looks pretty cool from the postcards we've seen but unlucky for us the weather was peeing down and the tide wasn't in enough to create the blowhole effect. so it was a waste of time... and we were then soaked from the 10 minute loop track around it all.
we've been camping at some cooel camp sites too. we drove to a doc campsite, department of conservation campsites. it was in abel tasman national park. doc campsites tend to be far bigger, more spaced out and in a lovely setting. they're basic and give you the feel of camping out in the open. some normal campsites have lovely settings but they're always so full... with doc sites you tend to get more space so vans aren't all lined up right next to each other. we ended up in a spot all by ourselves with the beach a minute walk away. we walked around it, gathered some wood and had dinner and drinks that night by the fire.
another doc site that we stayed at was an hours drive away from franz josef. it was right at lake ianthe but only enough room for 4 or 5 vans. we both fished off the jetty for a while and paul done some more fishing in the morning as i slept lol. again, it was another lovely view from our campervan.
sunset at lake ianthe
paul fishing at the jetty
we are now at lake tekapo, at a campsite with great views of the lake. the water is so clear with all shades of blue through it... and of course, half the lake is edged with snow capped mountains. tis gorge!
it's the highest point you can get to in new zealand without having to climb a mountain. we'll hopefully be in for a treat with the stars tonight. we're not that far from twizel, where some scenes from lord of the rings were shot. soon we'll be heading there and then making our way further south of the island. we've got 11 more days here before flying out of queenstown to canada. queenstown is known as the adventure capital so we're hoping to spend a few days there. will be in touch in queenstown x